Dwarf baby tears are one of the most beautiful and delicate foreground plants you can currently get. Their bright clusters can be used to completely cover the substrate of freshwater aquariums, creating a soft bed of lush green, or they can be used for coverage floating on the surface of the water. They demand high lighting and high nutrients, so getting this species to fully establish in your aquarium can be difficult but should have no problems growing once settled.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about dwarf baby tears care and keeping these freshwater plants in your own system!
Hemianthus callitrichoides is commonly known as dwarf baby tears and may be abbreviated as DBT or HC after their scientific name.
These plants were recently discovered in 2003 and have since become a very popular aquarium plant.
Dwarf baby tears were first discovered in the area east of Havana, Cuba. It was described as a small rocky plant and is thought only to be endemic to those specific regions in Cuba. However, other members of the Hemianthusgenus may be found in other countries.
While not much is known about its natural freshwater environment, it is thought that this species comes from shallow waters with high nutrient contents and moderate to fast water current. It likes to place itself between rocks and fallen trees, where it uses its roots to anchor into porous surface areas.
This is actually the smallest of all known aquarium plants and will only reach a maximum size of about 5-6 inches (12-15 cm). Dwarf baby tears have small rounded leaves that are a bright and vibrant green. It will often be grown as a carpeted foreground plant in display tanks but is usually sold in tufts or in small pots; it may also sometimes be used as a floating plant, though this is less common.
If kept in a tank with near-perfect conditions and the plant is especially happy, you may see tiny white flowers bloom from time to time, though they are very easy to overlook and miss completely.
Dwarf baby tears tank requirements
Dwarf baby tears are moderately difficult to keep due to their high demand for light and nutrients. They need a stable tropical water temperature between 68-82° F (20-28° C), KH between 0-10, and pH between 5.0-7.5. Suggested water flow if moderate to high. If used as a floating plant, surface water current should not cause the leaves to sink or overly bump into the side of the aquarium.
Substrate should be fine-grained and rich with nutrients, especially iron content. Low iron will cause leaves to turn yellow and overall growth will be stunted.
This species tends to do especially well in a nano tank due to its size and exact demands. At least 2 watts of light per gallon by full-spectrum bulbs (5000-7000K) is recommended for the best growth and results.
Dwarf baby tears tank mates
This plant looks best among other foreground species of different colors to create contrast and interest in the tank. Because this plant requires such high lighting, you might also consider planting Rotala macrandra, Alternanthera reineckii ‘Mini,’ Vesicularia montagnei (Christmas moss), Cryptocoryne parva, and Eleocharis montevidensis to name a few.
While this is a relatively hardy plant that will recover after being nipped at by other tank mates, it is best to keep them with calm and peaceful freshwater fish. Fish like oscars, goldfish, cichlids, and other large fish should be avoided.
This species is commonly used for breeding/spawning tanks; the thick dense carpet is a perfect place for eggs to be laid and fry to feel safe.
Make sure to check out our full Cryptocoryne care sheet here.
Planting dwarf baby tears
You have the option to leave this plant free-floating at the top of your tank or you can plant it in the substrate; most hobbyists prefer its carpeted substrate effect.
It is best to take small bunches of the plant and spread them evenly throughout the bottom of your tank. Make sure that the roots are planted deep enough into the substrate so that they don’t easily float away. They will do best in a nutrient-rich fine-grained substrate.
Apart from high lighting, these plants will need to be regularly supplemented with CO2 and fertilizers.
How long does it take dwarf baby tears to carpet?
It can take a while for your plant to settle in and start growing. Once it gets used to the conditions in your tank and lighting and nutrient needs are met, then you can expect the growth rate to increase. But if you’re looking for a fast-growing plant, then this is definitely not the species for you.
While the growth rate is moderately slow, this plant can and will grow over itself to the point where it is competing against itself for light and nutrients. Regular pruning will be needed to keep your plant healthily and steadily growing.
Will dwarf baby tears grow on driftwood?
In its natural environment, dwarf baby tears are found growing on porous surfaces, such as submerged pieces of wood and rocks. In the aquarium trade, they’re usually more favored for their appearance as a carpet foreground plant, but will readily attach to driftwood as well.
If you want growth on the driftwood in your tank, simply tie down a bunch or two using rubber bands or fishing line. After a couple of weeks, your plant should have attached itself and it will be safe to cut the line.
Propagating dwarf baby tears
Because dwarf baby tears are slow growers, it’s common for hobbyists to help the plant start to carpet through propagation. This species reproduces by sending out runners from their roots which then form a whole new plant. This new growth can be carefully cut and transplanted to a new section of the tank to help even the spread of coverage.
These runners can also be clipped to help control growth if the plant has grown too much.
If you have a planted tank with lots of light and lots of supplemented nutrients, then baby tears can make a beautiful foreground addition with lots of space for other contrasting plants. While they are not the fastest-growing species and can be difficult to get established, their ability to be easily propagated and the lush aquascape they grow into will quickly make them your favorite plant in your tank!
If you have any questions about dwarf baby tears care or have experience keeping this species in your own tank, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!